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David Grey
Lesson: 53
Back to Basics

My name is David Grey and I play online poker at Full Tilt Poker. If you want
to learn more about my poker career, keep reading...

I don't like to think of myself as a poker professional. I play when I feel like it,
and often spend as much time on the golf course or watching the stock
market as I do playing poker.

I'm better known for my cash game, but I play the big WSOP and WPT events
whenever I can. In 2005, I won my second World Series of Poker bracelet in
the No-Limit Deuce-to-Seven Draw event. I won my first bracelet in 1999, and
have three other WSOP final table appearances. I guess other people might
consider me a pro, but I still need some persuading.

I play in some of the biggest cash games in the world. Usually, these games
are loaded with pros - folks who know the intricacies and advanced
strategies of pretty much every poker game. We normally play a mix of
games that can include Hold ‘em,  7-Stud, Omaha,  and one or more of the
Hi/Lo variations. Most of the time, we play with a fixed-limit betting structure.

In a recent session, I had a stretch where I was pretty card dead, so I spent
most of my time folding. To my knowledgeable opponents, it must have
appeared that I was playing especially tight. Then in a game of 7-Stud, I was
dealt an Ace as my up-card. The bring-in bet had been raised and I re-raised.

Then, two top-rate pros with no more than their antes in the pot called my re-
raise. There are only a couple of hands that might justify their calls. However,
as the hand proceeded with me as the aggressor, it became clear that the
callers of my third-street re-raise didn't have much at all. One held three
unconnected hearts, the other had a middle pair with no kicker.

What were these guys thinking? It's hard to know, but my guess is that one
of them let his desire to gamble get the better of him. Though that can pay
dividends in well-chosen spots, this wasn't one of them. The other might
have thought he could outplay me later in the hand.

In the end, neither of their strategies makes much sense. I made it
expensive enough that it was a lousy spot to gamble, and given that I've
declared that I have a pair of aces, there's little chance that I'm going to get
bluffed out of the pot.

I think this hand highlights a couple of the mental traps that sometimes snag
advanced players. As players improve, they inevitably see more opportunities
for profit, and thus, see potential in a greater number of hands. But it's a
slippery slope, and a player can easily lose the long view and convince
himself that he can make any starting hand work out.

This just isn't the case - especially when playing fixed-limit games. Even at
the highest levels, profitability in limit poker is largely determined by a
player's ability to choose the right starting hands. If you fail in this regard or
somehow lose your discipline, it's nearly impossible to recover. Fancy plays
and good decisions on later streets cannot overcome early-hand mistakes. If
you're throwing money into a pot when you shouldn't, you're going to lose
money. There's no way around it.

If you find yourself in a stretch where things aren't going especially well, take
a step back and make sure your hand selection is all it ought to be. Review
the previous tips from the other Full Tilt Poker pros. Jennifer Harman has
written on hand selection in Stud-8, Omaha-8, Razz, and Perry Friedman has
written about third street decisions in 7-Stud.  

Always remember that in limit poker, hand selection is the foundation for your
entire game. You can't build a solid  game on a weak foundation.

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